It’s almost March, and the spring season for the Binghamton golf team has almost arrived. Five tough invitationals are lined up on the schedule, including the Big Sky Conference Championships in Boulder City, Nevada. But before the season even began, two members of the golf team faced an even greater challenge when senior Zak Ottman and sophomore Justin Lane competed in a putting contest in the golf team’s putting facility in the West Gym. Their opponents? Myself and Sports Editor Samuel Ditchek, two of Pipe Dream Sports’ finest young golfers.
Having watched golf all my life but never having played the game beyond a mini golf course, I was curious to see the difficulty level of some of the putts that golfers had to face and the level of skill required to make them. So I recruited Ditchek to see how we stood against two members of Binghamton’s golf team in a fun, competitive putting contest. We knew that their abilities far outmatched our own, but being graduates of Wii Sports Golf and Sega Genesis’ PGA Tour Golf, perhaps we could hold our own.
Ditchek and I met BU head coach Bernie Herceg in the West Gym lobby. He led us to the team’s facility in the basement where Ottman and Lane were waiting. Formerly a racquetball room, the facility featured a surface that replicated an actual putting green, along with a small bit of fairway. Tons of holes were splayed across the green, creating a multitude of possible putts.
Our contest was an 18-hole team match play. Whoever shot the best on a putt won the hole for his team, and the team with the most holes won would be declared the winner. Each shot was to be chosen by the winners of the previous hole. With the rules explained and Herceg looking on and shouting encouragement, the competition began, and things began to go downhill for the Pipe Dream team almost immediately.
The trickiest part of putting was reading the speed of the green correctly. The putting surface in the golf team’s facility was much quicker than the average mini golf course; a little tap sent the ball a long way. After a few practice shots, though, I started to temper the force with which I putted and more or less got the hang of it. Ditchek was not as fortunate. He sent putt after putt flying by the hole and off the green.
“Playing the greens was definitely a challenge for someone who exerted too much strength in nearly every single shot,” Ditchek said. “Over the course of the day I did get a better feel for how to hit the ball in terms of force.”
Lane and Ottman were solid, as expected. Having practiced on that putting green countless times, they were aware of every hill, dip and curve on the surface. Ottman, in particular, was raking in one-putts one after another, putting him and Lane well ahead of Ditchek and I very quickly.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Pipe Dream side, however, as I, by majority, did manage to win a hole here and there. In one instance, my putt rode along the edge of a slight ridge and curled back perfectly right into the hole, but it wasn’t nearly enough to dig ourselves out of the hole we were in. The Binghamton golf team defeated Pipe Dream, six holes up with four to go.
Since we played so terribly against Ottman and Lane, we decided to switch up the teams and play a nine-hole competition. Ottman and Ditchek were pitted against Team Justin (Lane and I), and Ottman summarily secured his second win of the day by outshooting Lane, as Ditchek and I proudly acted as dead weight.
Perhaps the most exciting moment of the day was when Ditchek finally broke through and secured a one-putt. After a few attempts where the ball, hard-struck, went in and out of the hole, Ditchek finally got some good luck and sunk a hole-in-one, his first and only one-putt of the afternoon. In the end, though, Ottman was the dominant golfer that day with a 3-0 record, as he captured the final match when he was paired with me. By virtue of his perfect day, Herceg jokingly vowed to name the room after Ottman.
Leaving the Zak Ottman Putting Room, I thought that I had performed reasonably well for someone who had never putted on an actual green in his life. Though the yawning gap between myself and the collegiate golfers was plain, it seemed that developing the knack for putting is within reach for anyone who practices honing their finesse, accuracy and overall skill.